My first digicam, purchased for $700+ and now worth nothing, was an Olympus C-3040z. Its shutter lag from a standing start—autofocusing machinations included—was about four seconds. Okay, I exaggerate. It wasn't four seconds. I might have told you this story before: once I was downtown sitting in a pub by the Milwaukee River, and I took a full-press shot of a boat going by. It wasn't some speedboat, either. It was one of those low-wake river-tour boats. I pressed the shutter when the boat was in the middle of the viewfinder. This is what the shutter lag felt like:
Camera: Whoa, what? You want me to take a picture? Sure, sure, just let me do a coupla things first...gotta focus...measure the ol' exposure...'kay...almost got it...hang on...workin' on it...ready! Here we go!
I got a shot that was half boat ass and half empty river.
But that wasn't the way I used the camera. The shutter lag when I prefocused with a half-press of the shutter button was pretty good—I have a poor memory for numbers, but I want to say a tenth of a second, maybe? 100 ms? Does that sound right? I can't remember how long I actually used that camera—eighteen months, maybe—but I always prefocused. It was just the way I used the camera. After a month or two it got to be habit. So shutter lag didn't bother me.
A reader named Yishon pointed out that Cameras.co.uk's shutter lag figures are nowhere close to Imaging-Resource's figures, in some cases at least. So who's right? I have no clue, although my prejudice would favor I-R. But maybe it's not critical. As with many things that appear to be a straight case of compare-the-numbers, sometimes it's best to try before you buy and go with your gut. There are two ways to get a camera to do what you want it to: follow it or fool it. Maybe a camera that scored a good number doesn't feel responsive to you, or maybe you can take a camera with a bad number and make it do what you want it to. Anyone who's never used workarounds in this business probably hasn't done much work.
Even the EOS RT, which had the shortest shutter lag I've ever heard of, 8 milliseconds, had a special mode you could switch it to that would change the shutter lag to 60 ms. Why? Because Canon's top pro camera at the time had a 60 ms shutter lag. The best pros had learned to anticipate the action by 60 ms, and Canon didn't want the faster RT to throw their top guys' timing off.
Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON